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We're buying a house fed by a spring, I have lots of questions about using a spring...

 
Posts: 34
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Western North Carolina, Zone 6b
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So, we're under contract to purchase a small (800 sq ft) mountain cabin on almost 1 acre. It's on a strong flowing creek, with another one merging into it across the property. So, there is a plenty of water flowing thru the property, but there is also a spring just across the street, which is plumbed under the road, then routed to a 'spring house' which has 2 10 or 15 gallon (not sure) terra cotta pots to hold some water, then plumbed down into the house. From the Spring to the house the tubing probably runs 100', maybe a bit more. I've been told by the owner that they've never had any water issues, and that the water tastes wonderful. The plumbing was disconnected last year, to prevent the lines from freezing, and I met the owners Brother at the house today to try to get them all hooked back up. Unfortunately, he didn't have the tools he needed to reconnect it, so it's still not running into the house, but he also told me that the water tastes "sweet" and he loves it. He told me there is a reducer in the line somewhere downhill from the spring house, which increases water pressure, and he said it's enough pressure for a decent shower, and to run a newer washing machine (which apparently needs sufficient pressure to function). He showed me a tube that his sister used to set out on the side of the road to run the overflow onto the dirt/gravel road, to keep the dust down in the summer, so it sounds like it flows plenty of water.

So, that all sounds fine, but still leaves me some questions...

1) What do I need to be aware of, or watch out for in regards to living with a spring-fed house, in general?

2) What could/should I do to increase water pressure, if I find it necessary?

3) Do I need to worry about filtering the water? The tubing in one of the terra cotta pots looked a lot like a stalagmite (orange and white mineral deposits all over the outside of the tube).
3a) Does this unit seem like a good filter? The basic research I've done points to it being a quality filter system, although somewhat expensive.

4) Do I need to bury the tubing? If so how deep? It's in ground for part of it's journey, but much of the tubing is above ground. It doesn't freeze too often or too long here, but we just had 3 (very unusual) days where it was below freezing all the time. i know that if i leave the water running a slow drip it shouldn't freeze, but still, safer is better.

5) Are there any concerns with the type of tubing they've used? It's black, flexible tubing, originally sold on rolled coils (it curls naturally). I don't think it's pvc, but I'm not sure.

I think those are the main questions I have at this point, but if there is any other pertinent information I should be aware of, please don't hesitate to educate me.

I've attached a picture of the property, with the spring source, line and house. It's not super accurate, but should be close enough. According to Google Earth, the line drops about 35' in elevation from spring to spring house, and another 20' or so down to the house.
spring.png
[Thumbnail for spring.png]
 
steward
Posts: 5271
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
1950
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Make sure that while buying the property that you also buy rights to the spring, and the easements necessary to maintain the water-line since if flows across other properties.

Water pressure is 0.4 psi per foot of fall. So if the house is 20 feet lower than the (I presume open to the air) spring house, then the line will develop a maximum of 8 psi. That's enough pressure to flush toilets, wash dishes, flood irrigate, or take a bath. Typical water pressure in modern houses is around 50 to 70 psi. I would find myself disappointed with a shower containing only 8 psi. A shower head can be suspended from the ceiling, which helps get water directly onto you rather than having to hug the wall to get wet. A pressure pump could be installed to boost the pressure.

 
Christopher Baber
Posts: 34
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Western North Carolina, Zone 6b
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Thanks Joseph. I was told the property included lifetime water rights, but have asked the attorney to make sure it's included in the deed.

Yeah, I would not be happy with really low pressure either, so perhaps a pump will be necessary. I guess that's another thing I'll have to research

Is there anything in their claims that "there's a reducer in the line going to the house" which will increase the pressure?

I'm hoping it's not too terribly expensive to connect a micro-hydro generator to the creek to generate enough power to run the house (and the water pump), someday.

 
Joseph Lofthouse
steward
Posts: 5271
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
1950
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Christopher Baber wrote:Is there anything in their claims that "there's a reducer in the line going to the house" which will increase the pressure?



As far as I can tell, based on the laws of physics, a reducer would lower the water pressure, not increase it.
 
pollinator
Posts: 4665
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Our spring fed water supply runs constantly so it never freezes. This creates a small stream of water on an otherwise parched area. We adjust the valve at the end of the line to increase the back pressure but never shut it off.
 
pollinator
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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That is a nice filter, probably way more than you need for 800 sf. Or want to make room for. I would get a 1 micron carbon filter for that blue filter canister (cheap on Amazon) or a doulton Rio 2000 (clearance reusable filter that filters out cysts and bacteria) if you are worried, but you would definitely need a pump.

Springs are wonderful as long as you keep the box clean. Hard rains can wash leaves in and mold, or rodents can get in and die. Not likely, but possible if you get sloppy with the box.
 
R Scott
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Posts: 3607
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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R Scott wrote:That is a nice filter, probably way more than you need for 800 sf. Or want to make room for. I would get a 1 micron carbon filter for that blue filter canister (cheap on Amazon) or a doulton Rio 2000 (ceramic reusable filter that filters out cysts and bacteria) if you are worried, but you would definitely need a pump. Or just a Berkey for your drinking water.

Springs are wonderful as long as you keep the box clean. Hard rains can wash leaves in and mold, or rodents can get in and die. Not likely, but possible if you get sloppy with the box.

 
Christopher Baber
Posts: 34
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Western North Carolina, Zone 6b
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Regarding adding a pump - I'm unsure about how it might work. It seems to me a pump will force more water thru the line, to increase water flow/pressure, which is great, but it has to get that extra water from somewhere, right? So, after running the pump for some period of time, it will draw the holding tank(s) dry, and won't have anything to add to the 'normal' flow, so we'd end up with no water/pressure after a bit, right?

Or, am I missing something in the process?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
steward
Posts: 5271
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
1950
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Systems to increase water pressure typically include a water holding tank. (Mine held about 5 gallons). The water in that tank is kept pressurized. But the pump only runs when the water pressure drops too low. So I could get a drink of water, or wash a few dishes, and the pump might or might not come on. Using pressurized water for things like washing machines, and flushing toilets doesn't use any extra water because they use a certain amount of water per task regardless of how quickly they fill. Showering with higher water pressure uses more water. You can't use more water than the well produces regardless of whether or not you add a pump to the system. I suspect that the overflow is much more than you can use.
 
Posts: 10
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
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I routinely help a senior friend of my clean out his spring which feds his barn then house and finally drains into a pond. The spring source is crocked with stacked stone. We use a long piece of pipe and use a gravity siphon to drain it. It fills really fast. We clean out any debris, check for dead mice etc. Make sure it is safe. it is the best unfiltered water around as long as it doesn't become contaminated. He is very careful not to allow any debris to enter the pipe, as it's alot of pipe to dig up if it becomes plugged. I have a hemlock crocked spring on my property, I would love to have it feed my cottage. But I would have to dig a long trench through my woods and it's higher so I would have the pressure but it would be half a mile of pipe. I have a spring which is closer but doesn't fill as fast. I was think for the closer spring of using a solar pump to fill a water tank on higher ground or a stand then I would have the pressure for the cottage plumbing.
 
Christopher Baber
Posts: 34
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Western North Carolina, Zone 6b
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Once it gets reconnected, I'll take lots of photos of the entire system, and see how well I can understand all the parts, then I'll post up any more questions or concerns I have once I see it all 'in action'.

I'm happy to hear that you think it's great water. I'm looking forward to trying the system once it's running, and after it's been allowed to run thru and overflow (clean out) for a while.
 
gardener
Posts: 3752
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
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Reducing the size of the line during its fall Will increase pressure, But will reduce flow . Black "poly pipe" for waterline is fine , its flexibility means that you don't need to grade and bed the pipe as it comes down the slope. If you ever need to replace it use as few connectors as possible , they are where debri will hang up. A water filter is a mixed blessing ... nice to keep all the debri out of your house system but can plug up quickly requiring replacement at inopportune times and you will want extra filters & canisters on hand, the plastic will crack on the housing when you have the least time to deal with a repair. Plumbing a bypass around your filter setup would solve that problem until you could repair your filter. In the event of your line becoming clogged ,hooking up at an appropriate spot using a large air compressor you blow the line out backwards , this is the only way to clear a black poly pipe of any length. I have lived with gravity water for over 30 years and love it ! my system is quite different than yours as I have 300' vertical drop in 2200' of 1 1/2" line... Only getting 3-4 gal a minute from the spring but 125 psi water pressure at the house. No water filter but spring box cleaning happens multiple times a year. I had to replace all my black poly pipe from 80 psi to thick wall 200 psi pipe to keep it from popping, (original pipe was 30 years old when I bought the place) I also run a micro hydro from this that supplies 120 watts 24-7 year long. That along with solar and a backup genny for high draw appliances supplies all our power needs ! Made the power company remove the power from my property! 100% off grid since 1982 !
 
Christopher Baber
Posts: 34
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Western North Carolina, Zone 6b
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So I went out to the property today to try to get the water running to the house (along with the sellers Brother). We were able to find the disconnected line and reconnect it, but the water flow is very low, probably the lines are pretty plugged up, or maybe frozen.

After reviewing the lines I could see above ground, they aren't in great shape, some signs of being kinked previously, lots of couplings and not very direct to the reservoirs.

I think they will need to be replaced for best results. Before I do this, I wanted to get some feedback on what kind and size of lines to run. The Brother called the man that installed the system originally and asked him what we needed to do to get it reconnected, and he suggested to run a 3" line from the spring source under the road to my side of the road, then step it down to a 1" line from there all the way down to the house. He said the higher up the reducer was, the more pressure would be generated. I can't claim to fully understand the physics of it all, but it seems to me that anything above the reservoir will have no affect on the pressure of the water downstream of the reservoir, so I'm inclined to just run 1" line from the spring to the reservoir. However, I don't really know if this is a good idea or not. Nor do I know if I should run a larger pipe from the reservoir, then reduce it on the way to the house, or just run 1" (or even 3/4") from the reservoir to the house.

Also, is black poly pipe the best choice? it seems to be plenty cheap enough, but I don't want anything leaching into the drinking water.

I'm attaching some photos of the spring setup to show what I'm dealing with.
spring-source-area.jpg
[Thumbnail for spring-source-area.jpg]
spring-source-surroundings.jpg
[Thumbnail for spring-source-surroundings.jpg]
spring-source.jpg
[Thumbnail for spring-source.jpg]
 
Christopher Baber
Posts: 34
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Western North Carolina, Zone 6b
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In addition to replacing some or all of the pipe, I'm seriously considering replacing the reservoir also. The current setup contains 2 terra cotta containers that I estimate hold about 30 gallons each, give or take. I'm thinking I should replace them with an IBC. I can get a 275 gallon IBC for $75. I don't know if it's food safe, so it might cost me a bit more for a food safe one, I'm not sure. I'd also prefer to use a 330 gallon one instead, just to have the most storage for the same amount of work. I'm not sure if there are any 'gotchas' with using an enclosed container, like needing to paint it black to stop algea, or anything else.

As far as pressurizing the system, could/should I put a submersible pump in the IBC to pressurize the water to the house, or just plumb a pump next to the IBC, or maybe add a pump closer to the house to 'pull' the water down (which minimized the need for running electrical to the IBC).

Thoughts and ideas are most welcome.

More pictures of the system...
spring-source-into-culvert.jpg
[Thumbnail for spring-source-into-culvert.jpg]
spring-line-under-road.jpg
[Thumbnail for spring-line-under-road.jpg]
spring-reservoir-containers.jpg
[Thumbnail for spring-reservoir-containers.jpg]
 
thomas rubino
gardener
Posts: 3752
Location: latitude 47 N.W. montana zone 6A
1032
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Christopher; Black poly pipe is fine for your water . Use as long a piece (300') as you can, as each connector is a potential clog spot. 3" down to 1 " is to much at once. Start out with 2" then switch to 1 1/2" and then switch to 1 " you are increasing your reservoir of water being held in the line. If you try to go with 1" the whole distance you may have trouble with line friction... ( phenomenon where water poured down a long enough small pipe will not reach the other end... strange but very true) With long poly pipe runs it is common to use a starting size from your tank ,run 100-300' then use a 100'-300' section of larger pipe to stop friction loss. Switching to a smaller size pipe near the end of the line will increase your pressure. Adding a pump is ok , but put it in your house not up on the mountain. Use a small pressure tank with a flow switch to control how often your pump runs. Having a larger tank at your source is a good idea , but it must be buried or you will have algae issues as well as possible ice issues. Living with a gravity flow water requires being in "touch " with your system... you will learn how often a trip to the water tank is necessary for debri clearing or just to check up on water flow. ONE IMPORTANT NOTE !! Black bears LOVE to chew on poly pipe !!! If your pipe is exposed and water is flowing the noise of the water and the bitability of the poly pipe is irresistible to a bear ! They can absolutely destroy an exposed water line in just a few minutes! BEWARE!
 
Christopher Baber
Posts: 34
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Western North Carolina, Zone 6b
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Thanks again for the very good feedback. Just to confirm I'm on the right track, how does this sound...

  • Run 2" pipe from the spring source, under the street to my side of the road (about 30').
  • Then drop down to 1 1/2" pipe from there to the new reservoir (about 200')
  • Half bury, then cover a black IBC tank (to block out the sun/prevent algae) of 275 gallons for the new reservoir.
  • Run the new pipe into the bottom of the IBC, then run a new 2" line out of the bottom of the IBC, towards the house.
  • Run this final 2" line for about 20' (or whatever is left over from the 50' line I buy for the line coming out of the spring)
  • Then drop down to 1 1/2" line using the remainder of the 300' line I buy for the section above.
  • Then run 1" pipe the remainder of the way into the house, into a 55 gallon plastic drum pressure tank, then feed into the house.

  • Is this generally a good plan, and/or are these proposed lengths okay? Should some sections be longer or shorter for maximum benefit?

    I think I'd prefer to use the 1" line for as much as possible, since it cost less, but the difference in cost isn't that much to risk poor performance from the system.

    As for the outlet from the IBC towards the house, I'm thinking I'll plumb an "L" into the interior of the IBC so the top (inlet) of the pipe sits about 6 inches above the bottom of the IBC. This keeps the ability to draw most of the water out of the IBC, but keeps the water coming to the house at least 6" off the bottom, to prevent any sediment from entering the line.

    Any ideas or suggestions are most welcome. I think I'm going to try to run all of this over the weekend, if I can obtain the pipe I need before then (so I probably need to order it by Wed at the latest).

    Thanks again for any/all help.
     
    gardener
    Posts: 3133
    Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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    That spring looks like it has a pretty low flow rate. I have a feeling that the big pipe you are describing would suck it dry in no time and pull air or disturb the bed of the spring. I think a 1" poly line from the spring to the new tank will handle all the flow you have and more. I would probably use 3/4" poly there, but 1" with possibly a throttling valve on the end in case of too much draw is probably safer. The slope from the tank to the house is minimal enough that I can see using 1 1/2" poly to minimize drag and keep all of the head. I would strongly urge you to make continuous runs without reducers or any joints at all between major points - spring, tank and house. Those connectors are asking to catch something and plug the pipe. You may have a good filter on the intake, but I would hate to depend on only that.

    Reducing the pipe size will not actually increase pressure at the exit; it will speed up the flow relative to the larger section of pipe, but will impose more drag and actually reduce the available pressure at higher flow rates.
     
    Christopher Baber
    Posts: 34
    Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Western North Carolina, Zone 6b
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    To make sure I'm following, I just want to restate what you said to make sure I've got it.

    You suggest running 1" from the spring to the reservoir, with no fittings along the way. Possibly adding a ball valve at the connection to the reservoir to moderate flow, in case I'm pulling too much from the spring. (I suspect this could easily be added later, if I see any problems, so I'll probably skip this for now)

    Then from the reservoir, run 1 1/2" to the house; again with no extra fittings.

    If I plan to add a 30 or 55 gallon plastic barrel as a pressure tank, would the larger pipe from reservoir to the pressure tank be necessary, or would 1" pipe be okay? I think the whole system will need about 350' of pipe overall, so I was thinking of buying a 300' roll of 1" pipe, then putting the reservoir at the end of the 300' run, then measuring the distance from the output of the reservoir to the house, and see how much more pipe I'll need to buy, or if there is maybe an existing section of 1" tubing onsite long enough to use without any fittings.

    FWIW, the previous owner said it's always provided good pressure to the house (for nearly 20 years) with the existing pipe (looks to be 1"), which has at least a few couplers, and some places where a smaller pipe is literally just jammed into the larger pipe.

    However, I'm willing to buy whatever size pipe is 'best' to avoid potential for problems, so all suggestions are welcome.

    **Also, what would be a good screen or filter to put on the end inside the spring? Is something like this a good choice?

     
    Glenn Herbert
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    Our spring had/has a bronze fitting with a fairly fine-mesh screen that would filter out smaller particles than this would, but it looks like it would work if you had a fine filter somewhere easily accessible (you probably won't need a pump in your line). You don't want faucets and showerheads getting clogged.

    I suspected 1" poly would work fine all the way, but have not actually seen your setup. We had about 500' or more of poly, I think 3/4", maybe 1", running through woods, down & up a ravine to a pumphouse and across a field. The house is a few feet higher than the spring, but the ordinary shallow well pump gave plenty of pressure for everything.

    If you will have a pressure tank at the house, I'm sure 1" will be fine. I would place the reservoir as far uphill as you can, to give the best pressure from there to the house.

    The spring source looks pretty shaky. One of the first things I would do is dig it out wider and put in something like a piece of concrete culvert 24" diameter or more (vertical) with clay soil packed all around it to shed runoff away from the spring. You don't want to obstruct the sandy bottom but you want surface water to stay out. I would also put a length of bigger pipe (any old thing will do) around the water pipe where it crosses the road and where it may be exposed to traffic or other disturbance. A piece of old 1 1/2"+ poly would be ideal.

     
    Christopher Baber
    Posts: 34
    Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Western North Carolina, Zone 6b
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    My thinking on the screen/filter was that I'd want something to keep the 'big' stuff from getting into/blocking the poly pipe. Any 'fine' particles can get thru the strainer, and would eventually settle into the bottom of the new reservoir. If I installed a fine mesh screen/filter in the spring, too much 'fine' stuff will eventually plug it up, and it would take more maintenance to keep that unplugged than what I showed above. Of course, I'm no expert, so these are just my thoughts as I learn about this, and I could be completely wrong

    When you say concrete culvert, do you mean something like this...



    I'm thinking you mean something like that but set in place vertically, with the opening pointing up, and set onto/into the sand bed where the water percolates to the surface. If that's what you mean, I'm curious how to get the poly pipe into the culvert to get the water out. I suppose I could drill/cut a hole in the side, or go under it, but would appreciate any other thoughts or feedback on that. Do I need to worry about what to do with the 'excess' flow from the spring? Right now, it just flows out right beside the poly tubing, down the slope into the culvert. Seems "okay", but maybe not ideal. maybe it is, but again, what do i know

    As for the poly running under the road, it's routed thru the inside of a 12 (or 16) inch corrugated pipe/culvert, buried about a foot under the road bed. I don't think I'd need to put the poly inside a larger tube, considering that it's not going to have anything actually touching it, right?

    I'm wondering if I can/should use one of the terra cotta containers that they are using for the reservoir right now instead of a new concrete culvert, since I plan on replacing them with the IBC anyway. The seem to be a good size/diameter to isolate the spring from the surrounding mess. They have a concrete bottom, which I suspect was just poured in place, and I suspect it would be easy to remove it making it a tube again. (does that make sense?)

    I'm imagining something like the attached for the culvert setup you describe...



    new-culvert.jpg
    [Thumbnail for new-culvert.jpg]
     
    Glenn Herbert
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    Yes, I think repurposing the terra cotta cylinders as you describe should work fine. If they have survived in your climate so far, they should last at the spring. I would just let the pipe run under the base of the tile. The spring water will find its way out as long as you don't go to extremes to stop it.

    With your small spring house space, I can see doing the screens the way you propose. Our spring house is a 2' x 4' inside concrete box with water about a foot deep, so it is easy to keep the intake clear.
     
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    So did this get done?

    How did it work out?
     
    Christopher Baber
    Posts: 34
    Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Western North Carolina, Zone 6b
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    I found a guy that installs/develops springs for a living. Met him at the property and he looked it over and decided that it's almost impossible to encase this spring to any level of quality. There is a giant tree almost on top of the spring, which would probably need to come down, and he'd have to dig back into the bank several feet to assure enough room to divert any rainwater/dirt/leaves/etc away from the encasing. Since it's at the bottom of about a 10' high slope of about 70 degrees, that means removing a LOT of dirt and rock, much of which is likely to fall into the spring. He said there's a real possibility that all the work could just cause the spring to 'move' somewhere else, and we'd lose it at that location.

    He said he would be willing to do the work, but since it's on city road ROW, he'd need their permission to begin work (unlikely), and it would cost about as much as just drilling a well. We talked about ways to make it better for cheaper, and maybe something could be done, but he thinks it's just as likely we'd screw it up as make it better.

    I've decided to leave the spring source alone, and may just increase the reservoir tank to a few hundred gallons. I'm going to install a booster pump in the house for now, and see if we ever raw the reservoir dry, if so, I'll replace it, otherwise, we'll just live with it like the previous owners did.

    i may install a UV filter also, but not before I have the water tested. There is no septic tank anywhere near the spring, so we shouldn't have to worry about any real nasty stuff in the water, but knowing there are no nasties might be worth the $500 or so it will cost for the filter.
     
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    I've got some natural springs on my property that are down below my house near a river. Have been thinking of utilizing some of the water. Am no expert on springs. Was thinking of putting large terra cotta pots in the middle of where they flow with a cover to keep out trash, then water would soak into the pot? The overflow goes into the river.
     
    Christopher Baber
    Posts: 34
    Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, Western North Carolina, Zone 6b
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    I'm not sure that would work. My reservoirs are terra cotta 'pots' and water does not flow thru them to the exterior. They seem to be water tight in my case.

    I think if you set them deepish in the sand bed surrounding the spring, the water would seep thru the sand into the terra cotta tubes from the bottom. But I don't think water will penetrate terra cotta "pots" without any exterior openings.
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